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How do sky-rocketing law school fees stand to create a barrier of eligibility and exclusion?



Very recently the National Law University Delhi has declared through an official notice on its plan for doubling the fees for the newly admitted entrants. This situation somehow saw a state of concern and worry amongst the students, as the matter of affordability of studying in a premier Law School in India stands as a question, only because of the fees, taking on against merit. It has also been found as per the latest IDIA Survey Report, that tracing the composition of students admitted to the NLUs reveals that most of the students were admitted through the help of National-Level Based Entrance Exams.


Generally, for seeking admission into a National Law University, the initial fee is fixed at an average of 2 lakhs INR per annum. So, in that case, all those students belonging to BPL Category families and middle-income ranged families find it very difficult and cannot afford to withstand the increasing fees. So, to counter this situation, most students must seek jobs in the corporates after graduation, which is also not even a valid option for students from less privileged households.


Thus, to understand this issue further, it becomes quite necessary for us to have an idea of the Fee structure that is usually followed in Law Universities in India. Almost 45 National Law Universities admit students based on the scores secured by them in National Law Universities. As very recently the Bar Council of India introduced a new Law University in Goa, named India International University of Legal Education & Research (IIULER).


The average fee charged by a National Law University is INR 1,86,392. The highest fees are charged by the National Law School of India University, Bangalore at 2,73,000 INR per annum. Followed by the West Bengal National Law University, Kolkata, INR 2,42,400. The lowest fee is charged by the Tamil Nadu National Law University Tiruchirappalli, at INR 1,17,000. Thus, the average fee charged by a non-NLU is INR 1,92,321 and the highest fee is charged by the newly instituted IIULER Goa, INR 8,01,000 per annum.


How do inadequate scholarships stand as a major hurdle in the process?

Scholarships are an important ingredient that helps in the admission process. It is pertinent that scholarships offer a better opportunity to join law schools, with an exemption from the high fees, which are provided by the government and the universities. Some of the famous NLUs like the NLSIU Bangalore, NLU Odisha, WBNUJS Kolkata, NLIU Bhopal, MNLU Nagpur, NUSRL Ranchi, NLU Jodhpur, etc. provide merit-cum-need-based scholarships ranging from INR 30,000 to INR 1,00,000 per annum.


But a scholarship is not meant to be acquired by everyone as its eligibility criteria and the efficacy state, which is only offered to a handful of students. These amounts are provided as scholarships which cover about 25-50% of the tuition fees in universities. But these amounts are somehow found to be inadequate and do not fully coverup the entire fee.


Very recently it has been found through an interview of students from the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research NALSAR Hyderabad, that the students face extreme economic hardship to proceed with their studies. Still, some of the major universities in India provide scholarships on a purely-merit basis. However, some universities do not even mention the details or provide any absolute scholarships at all.


Government’s Intervention on the matter -

Various Central-Government led scholarships like the Post-Matric Scholarship for Students belonging to minority communities and for students with disabilities have been aimed to provide a meagre allowance ranging from INR 3,000 to INR 10,000. Also, the case of other scholarships like the Top-Class Scholarships for Students with Disabilities and Top-Class Scholarship for ST and SC Category students ranging from 1,50,000 – 2,50,000 INR is not only being limited to students willing to pursue law. It will also cover students belonging to other streams as well.


The Union Budget of 2023 has further called for a reduction of 38% of funds for the Ministry of Minority Affairs, which indicated towards an inevitable decline. However, these schemes have been allotted funds of INR 44 crores this year, whereas the budget for the last year was INR 365 crores. But at the same hand state governments of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh also provides scholarships for students to study in top institutions as well.


However, this situation of soaring hike in fees has created a very complex situation for the students and aspirants willing to pursue law, despite being eligible after qualifying for the Law Entrance Exams. In this case, the students must seek the support of loans from their family and relatives or it even compels them to steer their legal career in the direction of corporate internship and jobs against litigation or as a last resort, attempting to join the judiciary. A small number of students are however stuck in the cycle about the case of the hike in law school fees. This impact was also understood at a time when the lawyers who graduated during the pandemic with partial phases of fixed income had been directed towards the repayment of the loan.


So, such kind of an instance stands to be quite critical, where a hike in Law School fees will be keeping on hindering the path toward pursuing legal education in the future. Also, it will restrict the right of pursuing legal education amongst the only elite and prodigious students limiting its scope.


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